Thursday, May 27, 2010

Watson Takes Point on Ref Reform

At tonight’s county council meeting, council chair Courtney Watson will introduce legislation to reconcile the differences between state and county laws governing referendums. According to an email from Courtney, the proposed bill addresses “key conflicts between State and County law by making it clear that the State law governs. In addition, this bill removes the requirement that petitions include a particular disclosure statement whenever circulated by individuals who are paid to do so. Removing this provision, which is unique to Howard County, makes it easier for petitioners to use standard State forms. The law already requires the petitioner to report all expenses which would include labor costs. The bill also corrects some obsolete nomenclature and makes other technical corrections.”

This move will undoubtedly lead to a wider debate on the other contentious issues surrounding referendums in HoCo such as the stringent signature requirements and the relatively low threshold for the number of valid signatures required to place an issue on the ballot.

And speaking of referendums, Marc Norman is headed to back to court in his continuing quest to stop Harris Teeter from opening a store in Turf Valley. According to this story by Sara Breitenbach in The Columbia Flier, his group, Citizens for Open Government “filed their intent to appeal a recent ruling from county Circuit Court Judge Timothy McCrone to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.”

I suspect that his union buddies are continuing to fund this quixotic legal attempt to keep the non union grocer from opening another store in HoCo. It’s always easier to be righteous with other people’s money.


Anonymous said...

Reconciling and reforming are a euphemisms. It's clearly illegal to require literacy to participate in Democracy.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, as another poster queried, how is it illegal to require that when a petition is signed that the person's legal name be used? I mean, we are talking about signatures, aren't we? So, this means that one must be able to write one's name. Must one be literate to sign one's legal signature? I don't think so.

HoCoRising said...

Two Anonymi debating the legal value of a name. Sounds like the beginning of a riddle.

Marc said...


Howard County Citizens for Open Government is very fortunate to have citizens willing to freely donate their time and energy to the cause of ensuring everyone's right to vote. This includes elected officials, local attorneys and many of our Howard County neighbors. FOR THE RECORD, we have not accepted ANY funding from organizations with a financial interest in the Turf Valley referendum.

The time has long past for all citizens, regardless of political persuasion or affiliation, to call for reinstatement of our constitutionally protected rights.

Paul Kendall has two lawsuits pending before the Federal judiciary. The first addresses the election code's highly unusual and restrictive signature requirements. The second challenges the unique Howard County financial disclosure certification that Courtney championed and has now moved to rescind.

In the past five years, over 22,000 Howard County voters have signed three zoning based referendum petitions. It is OUTRAGEOUS that political forces and their deep pocket benefactors have denied the will of the people by keeping these referenda from the electorate.

Each and every candidate running for office should be asked to specifically identify what they have done in the past 15 months to restore our voting rights. Who have they called, written or met with?

I hope you will join your blog colleagues and the press in providing voters with factual information they can use in making their decision on Election Day.

Anonymous said...

Like Woodward and Bernstein said...follow the money.

Anonymous said...


So, when will Howard County residents have to have serial numbers tatooed on their left forearms to sign a referendum? I'm just sayin'. Don't ask me to take a shower.

So, when will Howard County residents have to give up tilting at windmills, because it's just bad form and upsets the status qu?

So, when will Howard County admit that 21st century technology should supersed its 19th century point of view on gathering information, i.e., referendums?

So, when will the county council actually figure out that...doh...the people that voted for them don't agree with their actions?

C'mon, these are all no brainers.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5 43, you, out of the gene pool.

wordbones said...


"FOR THE RECORD, we have not accepted ANY funding from organizations with a financial interest in the Turf Valley referendum."

Interesting turn of phrase. Are you saying that you have not received any financial support from the food workers union or their PAC?


Marc said...


As our publicly available election filings will support, there isn't any "turning of a phrase".

I will further go on the record as being thoroughly disgusted with the lip service of County politicos (from both parties) who have proclaimed their support for our constitutional rights BUT..... just not for THIS petition.

A notable exception is the immediate action that Senate Majority Leader Ed Kasemeyer (D-Howard) took to introduce March 2009 emergency legislation that would correct this injustice. Unfortunately, the state legislature has failed to restore our rights during their 2009 and 2010 sessions.

Thank you for providing a forum to discuss these issues.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for adding clarity, Marc.

Anonymous said...

Stormtrooper: Let me see your identification.
Obi-Wan: [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his identification.
Stormtrooper: We don't need to see his identification.
Obi-Wan: These aren't the droids you're looking for.
Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.
Obi-Wan: He can go about his business.
Stormtrooper: You can go about your business.
Obi-Wan: Move along.
Stormtrooper: Move along... move along.

Anonymous said...

Well lookey there, its and election year and Courtney is in trouble and She is looking for populist help. Question is why is She just now getting off of Her lazy keister to do something about this long standing problem? We need people in office who deal with problems like this when they arise, not solely to have something to run on. Unbelieveable - what else does She have? Snow Removal? Like She was out there removing all of the snow?

Anonymous said...

I just read this post and looked at Bill 34. The timing is odd and the fact she couldn't get or didn't want any Dems on the bill with her is odd too. Why would she send an email out to Wordbones and presumably other media on this bill before it is even introduced? According to the council website calendar of meetings, the next meeting is June 7? Why isn't she addressing all issues with referendums instead of this obscure stuff. She could have at least appointed a task force with people who have experience, like Marc Norman or Angie Beltram, to look at all the issues and report back. Then, at least it might have felt a little like she was being responsive!

Anonymous said...

In trouble? Hardly. As usual, she’s the one who is being expertly responsive - where are the rest of the council members?

CW said...

I asked that the bill be drafted after the Council received a letter from the Board of Elections in March pointing out the conflicts between state and local law. I told Dennis and Paul about this in my interview on "And Then There's That" back on April 30th. That's why I sent the explanation to Wordbones this week when the legislation was prefiled on Thursday. It did not get prefiled until now due to the budget taking up most of our time in April and May.

All Councilmembers were invited to cosponsor. Some had concern, and probably legitimately so, with the removal of the "paid" provision in the bill, choosing not to cosponsor, but to discuss it during the legislative process. I removed that provision at the request of the LWV, who felt it did not end up doing what was their intention when the original provision was put in by the Council.
The outcomes of the recent referendums would not have changed had this bill been passed earlier. However, if it should pass, the referendum process would be more clear to the public in the future.
I had the bill reviewed by Angie Beltram before it was filed, as well as by the League of Women Voters.
The two major issues of signature form, and number of signatures must be addressed by the state legislature, and by charter amendment and could not be addressed in this bill.
Readers can email me at with further questions, or suggestions on this legislation.

Gimme A Break said...

HEY CW... where do you stand on the right to petition Council bills to referendum. Besides telling the January 2009 Chamber of Commerce breakfast that the Turf Valley rezoning would never be overturned, what have you done to help your constituents regain our right to vote?

Anonymous said...

These aren't the droids you're looking for.

Anonymous said...

Did we misplace our manners? It is customary to address our dedicated, elected representatives with a more respectful salutation than "HEY." Particularly when writing.

Anonymous said...

Oh look.... it freakin' Ann Landers.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Wow - looks like our own highly exalted Council Chair Watson (Is that up to Ann's standards?) really thinks highly of Her reign. Its really disgusting to think that we have such a wreckless braggert in our midst. This referendum issue has been a problem for a much longer time than March 2010. Shameless pandering and camera chasing on every issue is not what the voters in Howard County want. They want effective politicans that won't waste our money and brag like the Queen and they don't want to hear all of the self promoting BS. Its time for a change and Queen Courtney should be one of the first to go!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't be such a hater. Post a constructive idea, if you have one.

Anonymous said...

Constructive idea of the Day - make sure you are registered to vote! And while your at it vote the Queen (CW) out of Her overpaid County job!

The Emperor has nothing on Courtney - droids 1 Howard County Taxpayers 0

Anonymous said...

Didn't she create the "conflict" when she was Chair? Nice how she and Fox (the dynamic duo of playing politics) will now solve the problem she created just in time for the election.

Elkridge Mom said...

Courtney has many admirable qualities (dedicated, bright, thoughtful, attentive and engaged in discussions). However, a continuing problem (that will possibly be her eventual undoing) is the political training that has seemingly instilled an unconscious calculation in everything she says or does.

Unfortunately, careful examination of her years on the Council (and Bd of Ed) leads my friends and me to the conclusion that she can not be trusted.

Anonymous said...

We already have everything required to place issues on the ballot - we need no new rules, guidelines or law. In fact,the county its self approved all the language in the Comp Lite item and then disqualified based on language.

The current council members must go - it's our only recourse having had our Democratic method of redressing local government terminated.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:40
What are you talking about? NONE of the current council were on the Council during Comp Lite.

Do you think it matters at all who we replace these folks with and what they have each done for the districts that elected them 4 years ago?

I rarely hear people in the district each of them serves complaining. I hear folks from other districts complaining, but rarely hear their own constituents not being happy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2 41/doofus:

Did the current council replace the miscreants who had already acted far outside the law?! NO!

You're as insightful as a flea with an analytical brain to match.

Thankfully you're at the low 1% of voter intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Not only did the perpitrators not get replaced by the current council, they acted outside the law again and again with the council's approval.

They ALL need to go in November